The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has set up non traditional condom outlets around refugee settlements in Cross River.
The intervention, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports, is to increase access to condoms in communities that have refugees.
The exercise, which was carried out in Ikom, was targeted Obanliku, Boki, Akamkpa and Etung Local Government Areas of the state.
The Project Coordinator for UNFPA, Dr Idowu Araoyinbo, in an interview with NAN on Friday said the global body did a mapping to identify the health care providers close to the benefiting communities.
Araoyinbo said that volunteers, including refugees, were engaged as focal persons to distribute and enlighten people in their wards on the benefits and proper usage of condoms.
“We organised town hall meetings which served as information dissemination points to the communities on the availability of condoms in strategic locations and how they could utilise them effectively,’’ he said.
Araoyinbo said the body also carried out capacity building which served as a platform to link the volunteers to the patent medicine vendors, the hot spots and the health care facilities where the condoms would be picked up.
He said a similar project had been carried out in the past which was not sustainable.
The official, however, said that after carrying out a joint needs assessment, it was discovered there was high level of transactional sex without access to condoms in the communities.
”We have done this before but we are improving on it; it is like a stop gap response.
“We discovered there was high level survival sex in these communities and the women were not protected,’’ he said.
He said the volunteers picked up the condoms from the health care centres, took them to the communities where they were given to the patent medicine vendors that already had dispensers available.
The dispensers, he said, were for control and were placed conspicuously in patent medicine stores so that the condoms were made available free of charge to communities.
“The major challenge now is how the patent medicine dealers would be able to allow access because they don’t work 24 hours, but we hope to check this through the hot spots,’’ he said.
Araoyinbo stated that he foresaw a future where patent medicine dealers would imbibe the culture of providing free condoms to their communities.
”We told them that this would make them popular as there was nowhere in the world where people don’t love business men who go beyond business to provide free humanitarian services,’’ he said.
He, however, said that though the project was aimed at sensitising people on condom usage, the best form of prevention still remains abstinence.
Araonyinbo also noted that statistics had shown that the sexual debut of Nigerian youths had dropped to about 17 years for girls and 21 for the boys, adding that efforts must be made to protect them
”Our youths initiate sex early these days most of which are done without protection increasing the rate of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in our society.
“Because most new HIV cases are found among the youths, the need to preach the use of condoms could not be over emphasised,’’ he said.
NAN reports that the project was carried out in partnership with the Nigeria Red Cross, Cross River Primary Health Care Agency, State Ministry of Health as well as patent medicine dealers in Benue and Cross River.
Other partners included the Benue and Cross River governments.